22 July, 2009

Pecan Tassies

People in Texas love pecans, especially when they're involved in pies. Pecans, puh-cons, grow on trees and are quite common in the southern United States, and where I live, they're everywhere. I can hardly remember living in a house that wasn't some how adjacent to a pecan tree, and every fall we would collect them and have then taken to a professional sheller to be then frozen and used throughout the year.

I love pecans. I love pecan pie. So I made tiny ones.

Pecan Tassies (tarts)

1 cup Lyle's golden syrup

3 eggs beaten

2 tbsp butter melted

pinch salt

tsp vanilla

1 cup pecans chopped

filo dough (or shortcrust)

Cream butter eggs, salt, and vanilla. Mix in syrup. Take muffin tin and cut circles approximately 3 layers thick and place into each muffin tin, fill with pie filling to 3/4 full. Add chopped pecans on top. Place in oven at 350 F until fork comes out clean. Let set for 20 minutes.

20 July, 2009

Callander Meadows, Callander, Scotland

Our trip to Scotland was lovely; we climbed a few mountains, went on a boat tour, and ate a few meals along the way. Our first night we spent in Callander, Scotland at the Drednought...Not my favorite. Somewhat reminiscent of an elderly person's home, and I mean that as no offense to elderly homes. Oli warned me this might be the case, but it was McNabb!! Haha, so after we got there off we went to wonder around and find dinner.
At the very, I'm going to say, western end of town, we stumbled on a pink building with gates leading back into a meadow and a group of other pink buildings with a sign reading 'Roman Camp'. Oliver and myself hypothecized on what that could mean for a bit, Romany? Gypsies? Romans? Italian camp? We ventured forth. The first thing we saw was mini horses.. Then more pink buildings, a river, then a larger pink building. The place was goregous, and like most of the places in Callander was a hotel and restaurant. Oli ventured in to look at the menu for veggie options while I had a wonder around..
This is the main building of the Roman Camp. Oliver resurfaced from the building with a funny smile and a ton of stories about a huge fireplace, a really tall seating host, and a huge fancy non vegetarian menu. If you're staying in Callander, I suggest you stay here.
On our way we went, still on a quest for food. We stopped at Callander Meadows, greeted by a man from Minnesota we took a look at the menu and found out there was an hour wait, but we put in our name and in less than an hour we were finally eating..
Here's the good stuff..
I ordered the Polenta with ratatouille, wilted chard, truffle oil, and parmesan crisp. Indeed, with truffle on top. Now let me explain that I have always wanted to eat a truffle and be reassured that I sectioned that thing out so that I had a tiny bit with each bite. "what did it taste like?" Mushrooms.

Oli ordered the courgette (zucchini) and pine nut ravioli with grilled fennel. "It was absolutely gorgeous."-Oli

And finally for dessert! We got the 'Wave' dessert, which was a sample of all of the desserts for two. Starting from the back left working our way clockwise; Berry Creme Brule, Sorbet Trio with meringue cookie, Apple Crumble with cream, Ginger Ice-cream, and Bailey's Cheescake. Oli and I both decided that the creme brule was the best, seconded in my opinion by the ginger ice-cream and in Oli's opinion by the sorbet.
My only criticism was that everything was a little melted by the time we got it.. Lame.
All in all lovely meal, and it was nice to finally eat!
I did eventually find vegetarian Haggis in northern Scotland, which was lovely.

10 July, 2009

Nanna Mexico

I love Mexican food, and for awhile I thought I was alone in this country. Mexican food is about so much more than salt and chilies, lard and cheese, it's about friends. How many times have we had a party re-cap over a lunch at Cancun (my favorite Mexican haunt)? How many nights have we giggled over margaritas about someone's unfortunate situation? How any times do we leave swearing never to eat again? Too many to count.
You see, Mexicans are our Indians, our enchiladas are your curries (I'm talking to you, English people.).
Now I'm not one to dread cultural expierences, I won't stop at Subway in every big city because I "miss" American food, but this is something different. I've eaten yorkshire puddings, mash, and bakewell tarts. I've had my fairshare of cauliflower cheese and pub chips, but I miss what I miss. My life in the UK, though not void of laughs or fun, had been missing a certain something, a cilantro spiced, cheesy, tequila something, until Nanna Mexico.
Now as any Texan will attest, we don't trust Mexican food from other places; citing several horror stories about attempting to order Mexican food in other states we are highly suspicious of non-Texan attempts at enchiladas or rellenos. With this said, I was, to say the least, unconvinced by the idea of Mexican food in the UK, but call it desperation, I tried it out anyway.
Nanna Mexico in Cambridge is what I would call a 'burrito shack', kind of modeled in the same vein as Freebirds or Chipotle. I'm not the biggest fan of these places, but in addition to the usual fare of oversized burritos and quesadillas there are "Mexico City Tacos", soft corn tortillas (not those fried shells) topped with cheese, vegetables, meat, or beans with salsa rioja and peppers, I was sold.
I ordered my tacos right after another American in line, which prompted a funny look from Oli; before we left he assured me this was proof that the British do NOT like Mexican food. I'm convinced this is not the case as there were at least 3 authentic brits amongst the American spice fiends.

Mexico City Tacos from Nanna Mexico in Cambridge

Oli's Chicken Fajita burrito.
My only gripe was that there were no Margaritas, though they did have the Mexican beers Corona and Negro Modelo, and Ash, Diane, and Stephen weren't there to share some trash talk; but I'll take what I can get.


I can hear my neighbors, well neighbor to be precise. We live in an old bakery and by old I mean, like historic. We share the building with a single father named Martin; I like Martin but due to our doors being so close and the walls so badly insulated I know quite a bit about him. I know his girlfriend drives a BMW, he has two children, snores, and oddly enough, vomits in the morning.
Now I'm not shy, and have even spoken with this man for hours on end on several occasions (outside, not through the walls), but I wonder, with all the noise I've made, what could he possibly think?
Especially recently.. Now get your head out of the gutter, it's not quite like that. The other night I was making pecan tassies, to help me with my pecan withdrawals and I was making a gluten-free oat crust, when I moved the casserole dish from the hot burner (hob) to the cool one, as it was an accident for it to be on the hot one to begin with. The bowl exploded; really exploded shrapnel everywhere including my foot, tiny shards of glass flew right into my foot, and I screamed for a good 30minutes. Now if I live so close to my neighbor that I can hear him vomit in the mornings should I be concerned that even through an explosion and the after-math of screaming he doesn't say anything? Call anyone?
Just seems odd, that's all I'm saying.

08 July, 2009

Cardamom Encounter

So just a few days ago, I was here, in Oundle, with nothing to do. I often find myself in this situation; I daily purchase a cappuccino from one of the four coffee shops in town, but sadly that only assuages my boredom for the amount of time it takes to finish the drink and work a couple of practice questions in my LSAT study book. Often I turn to my host here, Oliver, to entertain me. On this particular day Oliver was working dilligently on his laptop and I felt that disturbing him would be unfair, so I turned, as I often do, to the pantry.
Well, we don't have a panty, but you get the idea; I don't need your sass okay? And what did I find in the "pantry" you might ask, Cardamom, a big bag of Cardamom. Off to google I went, and then the Co-Op for a bar of chocolate and pistachios.. Here's what I came up with; if some of the ingredients look weird, it's because it's what we had.

Cardamom and Pistachio Bites, dipped in Chocolate

1/2 cup of butter
2/3 cup of sugar
1 tsp cardamom
1/4 cup milk
1 2/3 cup self-rising flour
2/3 cup pistachios chopped
1 bar of dark chocolate
1 egg

Oven temp: 200C

Cream butter spread, sugar, and cardamom. Add milk and half the pistachios; mix thoroughly. Slowing incorporate flour, should gather and ball up as you stir it. Take the ball of dough (which will be sticky) and cover in cling wrap and put in freezer till it firms up, maybe 20 minutes. Remove ball from freezer and place on counter top which is covered in flour. Dust with flour until the dough can be handled without sticking to your hands. Roll out dough on countertop and cut into small squares, about 2x2 inches. Crack egg and whisk with fork in a small dish. Place squares on greased cookie sheet and use basting brush or finger to brush egg mixture on top of each square. Bake until golden and poofy. Allow cookies to cool.
Break chocolate bar up and add to the top of a double boiler (sauce pan on top of sauce pan of boiling water). Stir constantly, adding 2 tablespoons of milk to get a shiney color. Dip the top of each cookie in melted chocolate and top with the rest of the chopped pistachios and extra sugar.

Perhaps a bit dry on their own, but nice as tea or coffee bites.

03 July, 2009

Cardamom Affair

Recently, on a trip to London, I did my traditional pilgrimage to Whole Foods on Kensington HighStreet, and to my delight I wondered upon a huge table of discounted spices. I had always wanted to try cardamom; kheer, indian rice pudding, is one of my all time favorites and heavily flavored with cardamom. At 99p I couldn't really pass up the opportunity.

Returning home from London I tried my hand and the simplest recipe involving cardamom I could find, Cardamom Spiced Filo Crisps with Strawberries and Cream, a good treat for the summer with a Mumbai meets Wimbledon feel to it.

Cardamom Spiced Filo Crisps with Strawberries and Cream:
12 sheets filo dough
1/3 cup butter (melted)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cardamom (ground)
1 cup whipping cream
100 ml Pimms No.1
300 ml Sparkling Diet Lemonade
(Okay sooo the last two may not be a part of the recipe, but just as breathing isn't written it, Pimms drinking is assumed.)

Brown butter in pan, do not burn. Mix sugar and cardamom together in small bowl. Cut the sheets into 10 pieces. Seperate the filo sheets and place the first 10 individually on a baking sheet. Brush the browned butter on each of the bottom sheets then sprinkle sugar mixture on each. Repeat adding new layers on top of the previous, making them as neat as possible, until you've run out of sheets. Add more browned butter and sugar mixture to the tops of the filo stacks and bake at 200C until golden brown. Wait for them to cool and remove them from the baking sheet.
In a bowl whip the whipping cream until it holds peaks. Spoon cream on to one crisp and top with another. Add more cream to the top as well as sliced strawberries.
Mix Pimms and Lemonade in glass, add ice and fresh mint, drink it. Make more. Keep drinking...

Sorry the pictures aren't the best, it was very hot and the cream was falling.
If you like you can layer the filo in a muffin pan and create little cups to fill with cream; lessens the mess and creates a smaller serving.